Friday, March 9, 2012

Is a coach a scientist??

From The Indroduction
The Science of Swimming - James Counsilman, 1974
The following quotation is taken from the inscription in the foyer of the Science Building of the Seattle World's Fair of 1962:

To learn about the world around him, a scientist must ask, observe, suppose, experiment and analyze:

In asking - the right question must be posed
In observing - the significant must be distinguished from the unimportant
In supposing - a workable answer (or hypothesis) may be predicted, but a scientist must be ready to abondon it
In experimenting - the right instrument must be chosen or borrowed from the tool kit of some other branch of science.
In analyzing - the scientist must, with his mind, and his imagination, draw conclusions from the data his research has revealed.

The coach must ask himself: "Am I a scientist?"
"Am I asking questions of other coaches, the athletes, and other experts?"
"Am I constantly observing objectively, evaluating, and reevaluating or have I reached the point where I look, but am not aware of what I see."
"Am I supposing or trying to find a workable answer for the problems which confront me. Once I arrive at a conclusion, am I then inflexible or do I always keep an open mind?"
"Am I experimenting? If possible, do I use tools from other areas of science such as motion pictures, physiological tests, and psychological tests. Do I also use tests within my areas; tests of strength, flexibility, agility? In experimenting, do I, within reasonable limits, try new ideas, that is, isometrci contractions, and so on."
"In analyzing, am I arriving at logical conclusions, or are my conclusions colored by prejudice, inadequate thinking, poor background, and lack of imagination?"

The average coach does not have the tools to do research, or the time to investigate thouroughly all the related areas that interest him. He is too often busy teaching, coaching, and taking care of the details involved inhis job to devote much time to the available literature. There are, however, questions that arise in the course of his experience that stimulate his curiosity. Since curiosity is the beginning of all true learning, the coach can use his curiosity as a means of self motivation in his search for knowledge. The human pursuit of knowledge seems to follow a three-phase pattern: the first phase is curiosity which comes when the persons interest is aroused and he begins to look at things, it is to be hoped, with some degree of objectivity; the second phase is that of confusion which comes about when a person is unable to analyse the situation immediately and sees no possible answers to the question or sees the possibility of several answers; the third phase is that of the search for the answer or the quest for knowledge. This is the never-ending phase, the one that will always keep man busy."

The true scientist is curious. He is able to recognise the problem he is confused about, and often his confusion is what keeps him in search of the truth. In athletics, the intelligent coach and athlete are constantly searching for new approaches and improves methods. These are the people who advance our sport. Other people, less inspired and creative, adopt their techniques....

...I have been criticized for the Hurt-Pain-Agony concept of training for swimmers. I feel, however, that no success should come easily. If it did, it would not be highly valued. The harder we strive for a goal, the more significant a goal becomes when it is finally achieved. This is not to say that the concept has evolved mearly to provide a difficult goal; it remains the most effective stress/adaptation method we know about in this time.

Not every swimmer or coach can be a winner. With intelligent, hard work, each can achioeve the best that is within him or within his team, and this is the standard he will be measured by, both by other people and himself.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Goal vs Process Oriented Training

Goal vs Process Oriented Training
By Lyle McDonald
An excellent website that I highly recommend that interested coaches spend some time reading.

Goal vs. Process Oriented Training: Part 1

Although I’m known more for nutrition and training, the psychology of good training is also a huge part of the picture and, thus, of interest to me.

Today, I want to talk about one of the major distinctions that is often made in the psychological approach that athletes take (usually to competition); that distinction is between being goal oriented and process oriented.

Goal oriented athletes

Simplistically, goal oriented athletes see their results in competition as the be-all, end-all of their training endeavors. This is also true of training. If they don’t win, or set a PR, or perform exceptionally all the time, they will see themselves as a failure. So on competition day, they have to win, or set a personal best, or set a record, or all of those. In the gym, if they aren’t beating their previous bests every damn time they train, they feel like a total failure.

Monday, October 10, 2011

12 FUNdamental Principles for Building Young and Healthy Athletes

A Coaches Dozen: 12 FUNdamental Principles for Building Young and Healthy Athletes

Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D. Larry Meadors, Ph.D.
The College of New Jersey Sports Spectrum Training
Under the guidance of a qualified youth coach, young athletes can learn the technical and tactical skills of a sport, gain confidence in their physical abilities, develop leadership qualities, and work towards a common goal. Furthermore, youth coaches who model appropriate behaviors and develop a coaching philosophy that is consistent with the physical and psychosocial uniqueness of young athletes are able to teach positive lifelong lessons to young people they inspire. But how much confidence should parents have in a youth coach who has no basic understanding of pediatric exercise science or believed that young athletes are simply miniature adults?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Principles for Mental Training

USOC Sport Psychology’s “TOP TEN” Guiding Principles for Mental Training
By Sean McCann, Ph.D. USOC Sport Psychologist


We haven’t seen any Olympic Athlete who succeeded without doing the physical and technical work, even though we have worked with some of the most mentally talented athletes in the world. The reality is that even an exceptionally talented athlete who has not prepared well physically loses confidence and is vulnerable in competition. The best and easiest confidence is that which comes from the knowledge that you are as prepared, or more prepared, than your competitors, and that you are physically capable of a winning performance.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Making Mistakes is Normal

Making Mistakes is Normal
Doug Lemov

Teach Like a Champion
I think that although the following example refers to classroom teaching it is quite possible to apply the concepts to teaching sport skills to rowers. The emphasis in bold is mine - Jamie

In today's encore excerpt - making errors is normal, and making mistakes is a necessary part of learning. In Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov's brilliant distillation of forty-nine techniques for teachers to use to improve student performance, he writes that teachers should normalize error and avoid chastening students for getting things wrong. (Lemov's book has application far beyond the classroom):

"Error followed by correction and instruction is the fundamental process of schooling. You get it wrong, and then you get it right. If getting it wrong and then getting it right is normal, teachers should normalize error and respond to both parts of this sequence as if they were totally and completely normal. After all, they are.


"Avoid chastening wrong answers, for example, 'No, we already talked about this. You have to flip the sign, Ruben.' And do not make excuses for students who get answers wrong: 'Oh, that's okay, Charlise. That was a really hard one.' In fact, if wrong answers are truly a normal and healthy part of the learning process, they don't need much narration at all.

"It's better, in fact, to avoid spending a lot of time talking about wrongness and get down to the work of fixing it as quickly as possible. Although many teachers feel obligated to name every answer as right or wrong, spending time making that judgment is usually a step you can skip entirely before getting to work. For example, you could respond to a wrong answer by a student named Noah by saying, 'Let's try that again, Noah. What's the first thing we have to do?' or even, 'What's the first thing we have to do in solving this kind of problem, Noah?' This second situation is particularly interesting because it remains ambiguous to Noah and his classmates whether the answer was right or wrong as they start reworking the problem. There's a bit of suspense, and they will have to figure it out for themselves. When and if you do name an answer as wrong, do so quickly and simply ('not quite') and keep moving. Again, since getting it wrong is normal, you don't have to feel badly about it. In fact, if all students are getting all questions right, the work you're giving them isn't hard enough.


"Praising right answers can have one of two perverse effects on students. If you make too much of fuss, you suggest to students - unless it's patently obvious that an answer really is exceptional - that you're surprised that they got the answer right. And as a variety of social science research has recently documented, praising students for being 'smart' perversely incents them not to take risks (apparently they worry about no longer looking smart if they get things wrong), in contrast to praising students for working hard, which incents them to take risks and take on challenges.

"Thus, in most cases when a student gets an answer correct, acknowledge that the student has done the work correctly or has worked hard; then move on:

" 'That's right, Noah. Nice work.' Champion teachers show their students they expect both right and wrong to happen by not making too big a deal of either. Of course, there will be times when you want to sprinkle in stronger praise ('Such an insightful answer, Carla. Awesome'). Just do so carefully so that such praise isn't diluted by overuse."

[Editor's note: We were reminded of this principle recently when touring the Franklin Institute's nationally recognized Science Leadership Academy and finding that the powerful learning mantra of the engineering department was "fail early, fail often."]

Author: Doug Lemov
Title: Teach Like a Champion
Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Date: Copyright 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Pages: 221-223

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why do Rowers Fear the Erg?

Workouts: Why do Rowers Fear the Erg?

Sunday, December 19, 2010 Winter
Op-Ed from the RowingRelated Editorial Staff

Friend. Not Foe.

I am really frustrated by our sport when it comes to the erg being viewed as a torture device rather than a helpful tool that people can enjoy. This negative mindset, which is extremely contagious, plagues the sport, preventing athletes from training to their potential and possibly serving as one of the reasons that careers in rowing, at every level, are often so short.

My main problem is that everywhere I turn in the rowing community, whether it's high school guys and girls, college guys and girls, or even National Team hopefuls, I hear of people dreading the erg. I've never heard about a cross country runner 'dreading' a track workout. True, basketball and football players may dread running wind sprints or other such conditioning activities, but I can live with that because those are not endurance sports. In other words, when strength, power, endurance, mental toughness, and monotonous activity are the bread and butter of your sport, it seems wholly inappropriate to create a culture that disdains such fundamentally important and central activities.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finding Out Whats Known

Will G Hopkins, Sport and Recreation, AUT University, Auckland 0627, New Zealand. Sportscience 11, 22, 2007 ( Reviewer: John A Hawley, School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University. Bundoora, Victoria 3083, Australia. Published Aug 20, 2007.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nutrition, Sleep and Recovery

Nutrition, sleep and recovery

Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia
Halson, Shona L.(2008) 'Nutrition, sleep and recovery', European Journal of Sport Science, 8: 2, 119 —126


Ensuring athletes achieve an appropriate quality and/or quantity of sleep may have significant implications for performance and recovery and reduce the risk of developing overreaching or overtraining. Indeed, sleep is often anecdotally suggested to be the single best recovery strategy available to elite athletes. A number of nutritional factors have been suggested to improve sleep, including valerian, melatonin, tryptophan, a high glycaemic index diet before bedtime, and maintenance of a balanced and healthy diet. Conversely, consumption of alcohol and caffeine and hyper-hydration may disturb sleep. Strategies such as warming the skin, hydrotherapy, and adoption of appropriate sleep hygiene (maintenance of good sleep habits and routines) are other tools to aid in sleep promotion. Ensuring athletes gain an appropriate quality and quantity of sleep may be important for optimal athletic performance.

Keywords: Caffeine, valerian, core temperature, tryptophan

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is Variation In Training Overrated?

Is Variation In Training Overrated?
The virtue of variation in endurance sports training is often hyped. But here’s why your program may benefit from a little less variation and a little more repetition.

Much is made of the virtue of variation in endurance sports training. Heck, I’ve made much of it myself. Some coaches and experts go so far as to say that one should never do the same workout twice in a training cycle. But lately I’ve come to believe that too much is made of the virtue of variation in endurance sports training, and not enough of the complementary virtue of repetition.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Little Philosophy

How do you make sure your coaches follow an ethical path? Ask them to each write their own coaching philosophy statement.

By Dr. Dennis Docheff
Athletic Management, 17.3, April/May 2005,
One of your coaches discovers that his best player has broken a team rule. The player remains eligible for conference play, but would sit out one game if the internal rule is enforced. Yet the team is undefeated, with the biggest game of the year coming up. Will the coach make the player sit out? Are you sure?

Ethical dilemmas are a common aspect of athletics. Most coaches intend to act in an honorable manner, but the pressure of competition can sometimes get in the way of doing what they know is right.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recovery From Training


Kinesiology Department, Human Performance Laboratory, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Vol 22 Number 3 May 2008


Athletes spend a much greater proportion of their time recovering than they do in training. Yet, much attention has been given to training with very little investigation of recovery. The purpose of this review is to stimulate further research into this vital area of training. Recovery can be categorized in three terms: i) immediate recovery between exertions; ii) short-term recovery between repeats (e.g., between resistance sets or interval bouts); and iii) training recovery between workouts. The focus of this review is training recovery. Full training recovery is essential to optimal performance and improvement. This review includes an examination of extant research on recovery and a very brief review of some potential modalities and techniques for hastening recovery and the time course of recovery and responses to some treatments. Measures of recovery and practical considerations are discussed briefly. Much research is needed in this area, but there are obstacles to high quality research. Attention must be given to key issues in research on recovery, especially the individual response to recovery treatments.

KEY WORDS rest, training breaks, fatigue, recovery modalities, overtraining, recovery ergogenics

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crew Selection - Seat Racing

Crew Selection
Author: Kris Korzeniowski (USA)
FISA Be A Coach Level 3


The FISA CDP courses in Levels I and II attempted to provide a coaching educational package of useful information presented in a simple and practical way. One of the concepts emphasized has been that information obtained from using expensive and complicated equipment, although perhaps helpful at times, is not necessary to produce and select world class rowers.

Further, many coaches unfortunately lack not only information from scientific testing but also information about the performance capabilities of their athletes either individually or in specific combinations. Although the coach may have knowledge about the athletes' past performances, the coach may not have information about their present capabilities. This fact may be due either to the absence of sufficient or any competitions, or to a short period during which the coach must select the athletes.

This may apply to either a club coach or national coach selecting a few months or even a few weeks before a championship. This situation is especially challenging for the coach during the process of selecting a crew. To alleviate these difficulties, a simple and objective selection system was devised and has been used quite successfully in the United States.

This selection system is termed seat racing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Willing to Win

Willing to Win

Author: Willi Railo (NOR)
From FISA Coach Handbook Level 3

1.0 Introduction

People usually look on the psychological side of sport as being something abstract and therefore difficult to understand. That is the main reason why they find it hard to do something practical and effective to improve their attitudes to sport. The psychological side of sport is often left to chance. You could draw a parallel between psychological and the weather: everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything! Understanding comes before improvement. We first try to understand what the problem is and give it a name, and then we go on to consider how the problem might be remedied.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Maximise You – 10 Tips for Coach Well Being

Maximise You – 10 Tips for Coach Well Being

Ann Quinn (Quinnessential Edge, London, UK)
ITF Coaching and Sport Science Review 2010; 50 (18): 3 - 4

This article summarises some tips to help you maximise the most important person of all – you, so that you can enjoy the journey to your success both on and off the court.

Key words: Coach well being, health, self improvement.

Corresponding author:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ten things every young coach should know

Ten things every young (swimming) coach should know

By Wayne Goldsmith (a few adjustments to offer Wayne’s recommendations to coaches in other sports)

1. Learn from the guys (and gals) who have been there

The best way to learn is by doing. Next best is to learn by working with those who do the doing.

Find yourself a mentor: A senior coach who has experienced the ups and downs of coaching. If you can’t find a suitable senior swimming coach, seek out a senior coach from another sport. If you want to learn how to coach from someone who knows – coaching skills are generic across all sports.

- Find a senior coach who has strengths you lack.

- Find one who will be honest and sincere: one who is open in sharing the benefits of their experiences. One from whom you can listen to and accept honest criticism.

- Look for one who disagrees with your philosophy – who will challenge you – who will argue with you – someone who stimulates you to think, learn and grow.

A few hours a month with a great mentor is worth a hundred seminars, workshops and lectures.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Correcting Common Misunderstandings About Endurance Exercise

Exercise Science and Coaching: Correcting Common Misunderstandings About Endurance Exercise

Andrew N. Bosch, PhD

UCT/ MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Boundary Road, Newlands 7700, South Africa. E-mail:

International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 1 • Number 1 • 2006


Many coaches who work with endurance athletes still believe in old concepts that can no longer be considered correct. Prime amongst these are the understanding, or misunderstanding, of the concepts of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), lactate threshold, training heart rate, and dehydration and fluid requirements during prolonged exercise.

Knowing the VO2 max of an athlete is not particularly useful to the coach, and the exact VO2 max value of any particular athlete can vary considerably as fitness changes. Race performance is a more useful measure on which to base training schedules.

Lactic acid production, far from being an undesirable event, is of great importance and is actually beneficial to the athlete. The lactate concentration during exercise, and the lactate turnpoint, are both widely measured. The nature of the information that these measures can provide about training and training status, however, is still based on information from the 1980s, although more current information is available and many of the original concepts have been modified.

Heart rate is often used to prescribe training intensity, but it is important to understand the limitations inherent in its use. If used correctly, it is a useful tool for the coach.

Similarly, many athletes and coaches still believe that it is necessary to maintain a high fluid intake to avoid dehydration and prevent associated collapse. These beliefs are incorrect, but modern exercise science has been able to advance the knowledge in this area and provide more accurate information.

Exercise science continues to progress and can offer much to the coach willing to accept new and changing ideas.

Key words: Anaerobic threshold; Endurance training; hydration; lactic acid; maximal oxygen uptake; training heart rate

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Review of Hydration

A Review of Hydration

Douglas S. Kalman, PhD, RD and Anna Lepeley, MS, CSCS, CISSN
Strength and Conditioning Journal
Vol 32 No 2 April 2010